As most of you are aware, the recent heatwave and resulting swath of wildfires have caused an ashy haze to settle over a large portion of Southern California. The general gloom and smell of ash aside, the current situation calls for a discussion about dangerous fine particles, or particulates, known as PM2.5 (Particulate Matter). PM2.5 refers to particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller in width; for reference, a strand of spider’s silk ranges from 3-8 microns thick – if you can’t see an individual strand of a spiderweb, you can’t see particles in the PM2.5 size range!
Particles that are 2.5 microns or smaller can travel deep into the respiratory tract and are even small enough to pass into the bloodstream, where they can have many adverse health effects. For this reason, we highly recommend upgrading to N95 or KN95 masks, as they are graded to filter out 95% of particles sized 0.3 microns. Additionally, N95/KN95 masks have a slightly tighter fit and are designed to create a full seal between the face and the mask, so that no air slips through unfiltered.
Despite our best efforts, it is unavoidable that some particulates may enter our system. However, all is not lost – even particles and toxins that make it into the bloodstream can be filtered out by the body’s natural detoxification system. To best promote the body’s ability to do this, we recommend our metabolic detox program, which you can read more about here.
The Pollution Problem
While there is no doubt that the volume of dangerous particles in the air is much higher right now due to the Bobcat and El Dorado fires, it must not be overlooked that these particles are not ONLY present because of the fires. In fact, PM2.5 is emitted by car exhausts and operations that rely on burning wood, coal, or oil – essentially any combustion reaction can create these dangerous particulates.
A quick look at the worldwide real-time air-quality index reveals that the entire west coast of the United States is currently suffering from hazardous (or near-hazardous) air quality conditions. This is even worse than the current conditions in China, which is known for having terrible smog (courtesy of years and years of vehicle exhaust buildup).
Because these particulates are so microscopic, they can easily be carried hundreds of miles from their origin – meaning that the recent wildfires put all of Southern California at risk of greater exposure to these particles. To further illustrate just how tiny these particulates are, you could take a look at a strand of your own hair. The average diameter of a human hair is approximately 70 microns, making even the largest of the PM2.5 particles over 30 times smaller than the thickness of a single strand of hair. Several thousand of the smaller PM2.5 particulates could fit on this dot ->
When exposed to these particulates, they can cause a variety of symptoms, such as irritation in the eye, nose, throat, and lung, coughing, sneezing runny nose, and difficulty breathing. Furthermore, these PM2.5 can aggravate existing symptoms of asthma and heart disease. Short-term concerns are rather obvious, but long-term exposure has been linked to increased respiratory and cardiovascular hospitalizations, increased rates of chronic bronchitis, and increased mortality from lung cancer and heart disease.
Standard facemasks, which do an excellent job of slowing the spread of the coronavirus, are unfortunately unable to filter the air itself, due to gaps and an incomplete seal on the wearer’s face. PM2.5 particles float right through the fabric of these standard surgical or cloth masks, and right into the wearer’s lungs, eventually finding their way into the bloodstream.
N95 masks are evaluated by NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) rather than the FDA, which performs the checks on standard masks. KN95 masks are much the same, simply being the Chinese standard for the same benchmarks of air filtration. You will want to be sure that the mask you wear is approved by NIOSH, else it may not meet the filtration standards.
Even by wearing an N95 mask during periods of heightened risks and limiting long term exposure to other sources of PM2.5, it is unrealistic in today’s society to expect to be able to avoid them entirely, between our dependence on gas-powered cars for transportation and cigarette smoke (first or second-hand). Therefore, it is important to remember to occasionally allow your body to do its best job of neutralizing and removing such toxins by opting for one of our metabolic detox programs. Without such a program, your body may be held back from performing its best work by toxins in your diet, or a lack of sufficient micronutrients to support your liver through the process.